Women@GTC Focus on Innovation, Inspiration and Roadmap for Inclusion

by Tonie Hansen

With diversity in high-tech one of the day’s hottest issues, this week’s GPU Technology Conference highlights how some women are beating the odds.

Despite being highly under-represented in the field, they’re showcasing breakthrough work in GPU computing during sessions including cancer research, video technologies and image recognition.

Nearly 100 female researchers, professors and engineers came together at the Women@GTC event Wednesday at our GPU Technology Conference to discuss women who innovate and how to help inspire female students to pursue careers in technology.

Among the attendees was Rommie Amaro, associate professor at the University of California, San Diego, who is leading research on how to interrupt the mutation process in cells that cause cancer, aided by high-performance computers.

The work, presented by Amaro at GTC, is focused on the anti-cancer drug discovery pipeline using advanced molecular dynamics simulations powered by GPUs. It recently earned her a $200,000 grant as part of NVIDIA’s Compute the Cure award.

GPUs are also helping keep us traveling safely. Fanny Nina-Paravecino, a Ph.D. candidate and research assistant in computer engineering at Northeastern University, is using Hyper-Q for real-time image segmentation for luggage scanning at airports.

Other GTC presenters include Chen Sagiv, CEO of SagivTech Ltd., which deploys multiple video sources to create high-quality 3D video scenes that can be shared via social networks. Deborah Bard from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory uses desktop GPUs to study the structure and evolution of the universe. And Ying Liu, an associate professor at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, uses GPUs to accelerate collaborative filtering algorithms.

NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang participated in the event, and shared his science-driven way of thinking about how to add value to the company with more inclusive practices. “Believing in something isn’t enough, you have to have a system in place to make it happen,” he said.

One effort beyond recruitment is a drive to retain women in the technology sector. Showing the world what inspires those working in technology about their jobs is perhaps the best way to find the best candidates, women or men, Huang said. In the end, it’s the product that counts because when you see a line of code, you don’t know who wrote it, he added.

“Science is a ticket to the world. It’s a common language, like music,” said Women@GTC panelist Pinar Muyan-Ozcelik, assistant professor of Computer Science at Sacramento State University.

Panelist Fernanda Foertter, an HPC user support specialist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, noted “one way to increase different points of view is to be inclusive of different points of view.” An inclusive work environment in technology means creating and supporting a network that encourages hiring individuals from broad backgrounds.

Panelists suggested several key factors to creating an inclusive environment: ensuring work environments that are family, not just women, friendly; projecting female role models for others to see; and using appropriate language when recruiting — avoiding “hacker,” for example, which few women identify with, and replacing it with “problem-solver.”

Panelist Lorena Barba, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at George Washington University, echoed these sentiments, noting that women in science must think of themselves as leaders, because “a leader can imagine the future.”